Scholarship Recipients Announced!

Congratulations to our most recent scholarship recipients! These student scholars have received nearly $280,000 in scholarship awards.

The Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team

One hundred fifty community college students were named to the 2016 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team and have received nearly $200,000 in scholarships. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation sponsors this program.

The recipients are divided into three levels: 50 Gold Scholars who received $1,500 each; 50 Silver Scholars who received $1,250 each; and 50 Bronze Scholars who receive $1,000 each. They also receive commemorative medallions.

Read more, and view the full list of scholars.

GEICO’s Meme 4 Money Creativity Scholarship

Phi Theta Kappa members aren’t just smart — they’re also incredibly funny and creative. Last year, GEICO launched its first scholarship program allowing Phi Theta Kappa members to get creative.

Students were asked to provide the most “meme-able” caption for seven photos provided by GEICO. Members had the opportunity to vote for their favorites online, and the five winners received $1,000 each.

See the winners.

Guistwhite Scholars

Fifteen Phi Theta Kappa members have been selected as 2016 Guistwhite Scholarship recipients and have received $75,000 in scholarships.

The scholarship is named in honor of the late Dr. Jack Guistwhite and his widow, Margaret. The Guistwhites established the first designated transfer scholarship for Phi Theta Kappa members at Florida Atlantic University in 1975.

Each of the 15 Guistwhite Scholars has received a $5,000 scholarship.

See the winners.

Alum Lands $93,000 Grant through Competitive Edge Skills

Guest blogger Paul Saltz shares his Competitive Edge experience. Saltz is an alumnus of the Alpha Rho Epsilon Chapter at Columbus State Community College in Ohio. He served three terms as a chapter officer, including chapter president, and two terms as an Ohio regional officer, and he was an International Officer candidate in 2012.

Since being the first in the Ohio Region to complete the Five Star Competitive Edge program, I have been an advocate for the program and credit the skills I have learned for my current professional success.

My first job I landed as I was finishing my AA was because of my skills at running meetings. I was attending a Model UN event and ended up being asked to chair one of the high school level committees due to the hosts being short handed. My Phi Theta Kappa experience taught me how to run a proper meeting. The President of the United Nations Association was so impressed that he hired me on to run their office and Model UN program in their Columbus Chapter.

I landed my current position as Project Manager for Grants and Development for the Columbus International Program because our offices used to be right next door to each other, so they saw my work first hand. But I credit the soft skills in business etiquette, project planning, leading a team, and the technical writing practice in writing Hallmarks [Awards entries] that I have been able to excel in my work. As part of a small staff, we all manage the university interns who come to learn and gain experience.

Working with volunteers in Phi Theta Kappa taught me how to keep interns motivated and excited about even the smallest of tasks. My soft skills have taught me how to handle important development meetings for the purpose of gaining the trust of donors and building new working partnerships.

The practice in technical writing and project management I gained through the Honors in Action Program and writing Hallmark entries is what I credit for writing an approved U.S. State Department grant for over $93,000. It was the first independently awarded federal contract in my employer’s 42-year history.

I credit the skills I learned through Phi Theta Kappa and the Five Star Competitive Edge program for writing the winning proposal, negotiating the final contract with the Department of State, and managing the entire project from initial design to final reporting, including the fiscal management of the project. Project tasks included setting the two-week itinerary of meetings, all logistics including international travel between China and the U.S., lining up volunteer host families, and guiding the Chinese delegation through the two weeks of meetings, including members of Congress and federal agencies.

There are not many who can say they’ve managed a federal contract and was a key player in international citizen diplomacy, and I thank Phi Theta Kappa and the Five Star Competitive Edge program for ensuring I had the skills to make the society and our country proud.

Competitive Edge is Phi Theta Kappa’s online course for soft skills development and career planning. The self-paced and self-guided program is available year-round to all Phi Theta Kappa members, advisors and alumni.

Dallas Colleges Offer New International Honors Certificates

The following article appeared in the spring newsletter of the Community Colleges for International Development, Inc. It was written by Monika Byrd, Phi Theta Kappa’s Dean of Leadership Development and Service Learning.

Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) is expanding the international education opportunities for its high-achieving students through piloting Phi Theta Kappa’s International Honors Certificates (IHC) program.

International Honors Certificates are academically rigorous online courses developed at leading universities that allow students to develop a global understanding in a particular discipline or topic. Students complete the courses independently and at their own pace and earn specialization certificates from the university upon successful completion.

These valuable credentials can be earned in four disciplines: Global Entrepreneurship from UCLA, International Business Human Resources from the University of South Carolina, Organizational Leadership from the University of Johannesburg, and Contemporary China and Chinese Culture from the Beijing Language and Culture University. Choices will be expanding soon.

DCCCD launched the program to get more students engaged in international education to meet the needs of employers in the Dallas area.

“The International Honors Certificates program is a rigorous, elite university program made available through Phi Theta Kappa to all of our high-achieving students regardless of whether they are Phi Theta Kappa members,” said Dr. Anna Mays, DCCCD Associate Vice Chancellor for Educational Policy and Student Success. “The program provides valuable international credentials for our students to set them apart in a competitive environment.”

Each of the IHC courses includes a capstone unit on International Leadership in Action & Discovery (ILIAD). Designed by Phi Theta Kappa, this unit guides community college honors students in the creation of a personally relevant, international, experiential learning plan and the development of leadership skills required to successfully implement and complete the plan. It also prepares students to complete scholarship applications to fund international experiences, such as the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, serving as a launch pad to further develop a global mindset through an opportunity like study abroad.

Like the IHC courses, students complete the ILIAD capstone online through independent and self-paced study and earn a certificate upon successful completion.

The development of global knowledge and competencies through an IHC and ILIAD capstone facilitates breaking through the barriers that exist for community college students to gain the competitive advantages that international experience provides.

“The IHC program is designed to provide two-year college students with the global perspectives and experiences we know they need to be successful in a global economy,” said Phi Theta Kappa’s President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner.

To add the IHC program to your campus, email

Phi Theta Kappa Issues Statement on Recent Legislation

In the light of North Carolina’s enactment of House Bill 2 and Mississippi’s passage of House Bill 1523, we want to clarify Phi Theta Kappa’s position on these issues with the following statement:

Phi Theta Kappa’s commitment to diversity and inclusion remains unwavering and our non-discrimination statement includes protection for gender identity and sexual orientation. Mississippi’s new law will not impact Phi Theta Kappa’s employment practices, educational programs or student activities in any way. Phi Theta Kappa remains committed to creating an inclusive environment for all members of the Society, community and visitors to the Center for Excellence.

The Board of Directors discussed this issue during their meeting on April 7 and determined that Phi Theta Kappa will honor contractual obligations that are already in place, but going forward will avoid signing contracts for events in states with laws that can be interpreted as biased toward any group.

Phi Theta Kappa is working with Wake Forest University to ensure a safe, welcoming environment for everyone at the upcoming Honors Institute. The university has provided the following information:

· Wake Forest University’s non-discrimination statement includes gender identity and sexual orientation.

· The University has released an official statement on the recent North Carolina legislation.

· In addition, the city of Winston-Salem has joined several other North Carolina cities in issuing a resolution calling on the state legislature to reconsider the impact of the new law.

Phi Theta Kappa is also planning to incorporate the issues of inclusivity and diversity into the learning experience at Honors Institute. We hope that everyone will be able to attend so that we can explore these complex issues, and many others, together as a group.

Board of Directors Chair Receives AACC Leadership Award

Congratulations to Dr. George Boggs, Chair of the Phi Theta Kappa Board of Directors, for receiving the national Leadership Award from the American Association of Community Colleges. Boggs is also Vice Chair of the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation Board of Trustees.

The award was presented to Boggs during the AACC Annual Convention, April 9-12 in Chicago. The leadership award is given based on outstanding leadership at the national level over an extended period of time and a long-standing commitment to community colleges. Two others received this award: Brice Harris and Wright Lassiter Jr. Read more.

In his acceptance speech, Boggs thanked numerous organizations, his parents, his high school teachers, and his wife before thanking college presidents for the work they do every day.

“You lead the institutions that are the least well funded, educating the students who are most disadvantaged and in need of help,” he said. “AACC has challenged you to increase completion rates, improve college readiness, close the skills gap, refocus the institutional mission, invest in support structures, strategically target resources, and promote rigor, transparency and accountability — all with declining resources.

“And I have faith that you will meet these challenges. Your work is critical to the future of our democracy. You inspire me with your dedication.”

Boggs led AACC from 2000 to 2010 as its ninth President and CEO, during which he helped lead an unprecedented period of achievement for community colleges. Corporate and foundation support for AACC and community colleges grew, and a number of new programs were launched, including the Voluntary Framework of Accountability and the Plus 50 Initiative.

Prior to joining AACC, he served as the president/superintendent of Palomar Community College District in California. He is an International Honorary Member of Phi Theta Kappa.

“George has provided steadfast commitment and progressive leadership to both AACC and Phi Theta Kappa as a member of the Society’s Board of Directors for more than a decade,” said Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa. “There is no one more deserving of the 2016 AACC Leadership Award.”

Earlier: Phi Theta Kappa Board Chair, Foundation Trustee to Receive AACC Leadership Award

NerdNation 2016 is Over — Now What?

Few things match the excitement chapters feel when attending NerdNation, but how do you continue that when you get home and ease back into your normal routine? Chapter advisors Dr. Tommy Thompson, Robin Lowe, Dr. Rebecca Tate and Jackie Pierce led an Educational Forum on this very topic, and now they’ll show you how to turn inspiration into action with your chapter.

If your chapter was unable to attend NerdNation 2016, don’t worry — all chapters can use these tips to build awareness and support for the year ahead.

“Keeping the energy and pulse of a NerdNation convention can be difficult, especially when most of our students who attend will graduate in a month’s time,” said Lowe, from Itawamba Community College in Mississippi. “However, the advisors at Upsilon Sigma charge not only the students but ourselves to light a NerdNation fire and keep it going all year long.”

The Monday after NerdNation, the Upsilon Sigma Chapter members wear NerdNation shirts to school, show awards to students, faculty and administration and share photos and videos of the trip. Outgoing officers meet with incoming ones to share experiences and encourage them to start planning now to attend the next convention.

Tate, advisor to the Alpha Rho Mu Chapter at Lone Star College-Tomball in Texas, which was just named the Most Distinguished Chapter for the second year in a row, plans a chapter pizza party to share photos and videos of the NerdNation experience. Upon her chapter’s return from NerdNation, it becomes all about celebration and awareness.

“The focus is on the immediate kinds of things that I do to let the students and advisors share their motivation, enthusiasm and new knowledge,” she said. “This works even if you don’t win awards, as long as you get good pictures and great video clips.”

Post videos and photos to social media to create awareness and send lists of any awards to college administrators and the public relations office. Tate has even collaborated with the mayor of Tomball to proclaim a Phi Theta Kappa Day in the city.

“The return from NerdNation is a prime opportunity to explain to your administration how a college’s reputation can be enhanced by its chapter’s success and also how to explain what a chapter’s international ranking is based upon,” she said. “In other words, use the weeks following NerdNation as a chance to create administration support for the upcoming year.”

Spring — particularly on the heels of NerdNation — is a great time for officer training. Tate’s chapter integrates mini workshops into regular chapter business meetings on topics such as the College Project, Competitive Edge, navigating and more. For Lowe’s chapter, it’s a visit to Phi Theta Kappa Headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi.

There, her officers meet staff, learn the history of Phi Theta Kappa and collaborate with various staff members on the Honors Study Topic, a College Project, scholarships and other benefits and opportunities.

“I know most chapters cannot visit Headquarters, but I encourage my fellow advisors to talk to your Division Representatives about a video conferencing session with Headquarters and your officers to give them a chance to meet the staff and see where all the magic happens,” Lowe said.

Sending a representative to Honors Institute — this year at Wake Forest University in North Carolina June 20-25 — furthers a chapter’s knowledge of the Honors Study Topic and unofficially kicks off planning for the Honors in Action Project. A good timeline for tackling the Honors in Action Project:

  • Spring — understand Honors in Action overall
  • Summer — training at Honors Institute and the identification of potential topics
  • Early fall — chapter buy-in, research and project identification and planning
  • Mid-to-late fall — project completion
  • Winter — writing Hallmark Award applications

Chapters can also keep the momentum going by attending regional meetings.

“Our region, Mississippi/Louisiana, hosts a Regional Honors Institute after Honors Institute, so the excitement reverberates back to our region,” Lowe said. “The advisors and students who attend lead sessions about their experience and their knowledge pertaining to the study topic.”

One intangible benefit of attending NerdNation is seeing firsthand the larger Phi Theta Kappa community. This is something chapters can replicate at home through community service projects and hosting scholarship workshops for all students.

“The focus is on recruiting students to active membership by appealing to their desire for meaningful service and for scholarship preparation,” Tate said.

And of course, nothing creates a community like matching shirts.

“We wear our Phi Theta Kappa gear the first day of classes and every week to prove that nerds rule!” Lowe said.

Quick Read: Top 25 Best Practices

Advisors and members stopped by the Phi Theta Kappa Resource Center booth at NerdNation 2016 to share tips on the “Best Practices” wall. We’ve compiled them here — the Top 25 Best Practices from advisors for advisors. Enjoy!

1. Personalize the pitch! Do you know what potential members are looking to gain from membership? Do you know what college they want to transfer to so you can tell them about a scholarship?

2. No question is a dumb question — call Headquarters! They are there to help.

3. Hold an Awareness raffle and give away free stuff. Phone chargers make a great giveaway!

4. Gain the support of your administration by keeping them informed about what you’re doing.

5. Remember: This is a student-led (not advisor-led) organization.

6. Take members (not just officers) to your regional and international meetings.

7. If you’re a new advisor, utilize your Regional Coordinators. They can help lead your new officer training, allowing you to learn along with them.

8. Have a go-to fundraiser to help those who may not be able to afford membership, such as boxed chocolates sales. **This chapter orders boxes of Sarris Candy Bars — each box sold provides $19.20 toward a membership fee.

9. Think outside the box. We rent homes instead of staying in hotels. It builds a team faster than anything.

10. Never miss an opportunity to say “thank you” to your supporters.

11. Trips = Fellowship.

12. Give away Phi Theta Kappa swag at ALL member meetings.

13. Show students through example that you truly care about their success…and always bring your jazz hands!

14. Free t-shirts for the leadership team.

15. Promote “Where are they now?” success stories to inspire. Be prepared to know your alumni and share their stories.

16. Weekly informational tables when invitations are delivered.

17. Be genuine with your members and share your love of Phi Theta Kappa. When you’re excited, others will be too.

18. At every member meeting, play a game, do a service project, host a “vent about my classes” session and give free food. If you build it, they will come (at least once).

19. Pizza makes everything better.

20. We have current members represent our chapter at our Open House to help raise awareness about the benefits before they even enroll. **This chapter has a 35% acceptance rate!

21. Bring a stuffed toy of your school or chapter mascot. Take pictures with them at Convention and send them to your college to be posted on social media.

22. Go after those students who seem quiet and reserved. Break them out of their shell. Greatness awaits them!

23. Encourage the students to come up with ideas that will benefit the college and the community.

24. At the start of every meeting, do five minutes of exercise — reduces stress!

25. Encourage, engage, inspire!

58 Student Scholars Recognized at AACC Presidents Breakfast

When Elizabeth Taylor was five years old, her father and both his parents died within a year. Consumed by grief, her mother turned to drugs.

When Taylor was in seventh grade, a drug task force raided her home and arrested her mother for selling methamphetamine. She was sentenced to two years in prison, and Taylor and her sisters were left to find a place to stay.

“Without a good support system, I became the victim of sexual assault, began using substances to cope with my pain and eventually dropped out of high school,” she said.

Taylor finally found recovery and began receiving counseling. She enrolled at Grayson College in Texas, where she began using her experiences to help others. She became a member of Phi Theta Kappa and just completed a year serving as the International Vice President for Division II.

“My journey through community college has been nothing short of amazing,” Taylor said. “Community college opened a world of possibilities for me, the most unforgettable being my journey as a member of Phi Theta Kappa. Through my participation, I began to believe in myself and see what I was truly capable of.”

Taylor was one of 58 student scholars recognized during the 58th Annual Phi Theta Kappa Presidents Breakfast on April 12. The event is part of the American Association of Community College’s (AACC) Annual Convention and honors the 2016 All-USA Community College Academic Team and the 2016 Coca-Cola New Century Scholars.

More than 1,900 students were nominated from over 1,000 community colleges. Fifty were selected as New Century Scholars — the top student in each state and in nations where Phi Theta Kappa has chapters — and only 20 were named to the All-USA Community College Academic Team. Twelve students received both scholarships.

Taylor was named both an All-USA team member and a New Century Scholar. She addressed the breakfast attendees as the 2016 David R. Pierce Scholar, named for the late Dr. David Pierce, former President and CEO of the AACC and a former member of the Phi Theta Kappa Board of Directors, who helped create the All-USA program. She received an additional $1,000 scholarship.

“Recognizing students for their achievements is vitally important to their success,” Dr. Nancy Rieves, Executive Director and CEO of the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation, told the attendees. “Advising students, mentoring them, recognizing their efforts gives them confidence. It gives them encouragement and hope, and suddenly they begin to thrive like never before.”

The All-USA Community College Academic Team program recognizes high-achieving two-year college students who demonstrate academic excellence and intellectual rigor combined with leadership and service that extends their education beyond the classroom to benefit society. The program is sponsored by Follett Higher Education Group and presented by USA TODAY, with additional support provided by the AACC and Phi Theta Kappa.

Each team member receives a $5,000 scholarship and is featured in a special section in USA TODAY.

The stories of the students recognized are awe-inspiring. They have overcome homelessness, addiction, domestic or sexual abuse, learning disabilities and much more. Many of them are first-generation college students. Many of them have families to support. But they all are dedicated to not only bettering themselves but also bettering their college campuses and communities.

“I encourage you to understand the importance and special recognition these awards provide,” Phi Theta Kappa’s President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner told attendees. “These students are not here because of who they know or what they know, but for how others know them and their outstanding work both inside and outside the classroom.”

The Coca-Cola New Century Scholars program is sponsored by the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, with additional support provided by AACC and Phi Theta Kappa. Each scholar receives a $2,000 scholarship.

Administrator Hallmark Award Winners Recognized

College presidents and administrators were recognized during NerdNation 2016 as 2016 Hallmark Award recipients. NerdNation was held April 7-9 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Shirley B. Gordon Awards of Distinction

Twenty-one college presidents and campus CEOs have received Shirley B. Gordon Awards of Distinction. These awards are based on outstanding efforts given toward promoting the goals of Phi Theta Kappa.

The award is named for the late Dr. Shirley B. Gordon, Phi Theta Kappa’s longest-serving Board of Directors Chair and President Emeritus of Highline Community College in Des Moines, Washington.

Nominees have served as president at least five years at the current institution as of December 9, 2015 and demonstrated a strong level of support for Phi Theta Kappa during their tenure. See the winners.

Distinguished Community College State Director

Dr. Lawrence A. Nespoli has received the Distinguished Community College State Director Award. This award recognizes the contributions of heads of state community college systems who demonstrate support of Phi Theta Kappa chapters, advisors and regional organizations.

Nespoli is President of the New Jersey Council of Colleges. Read more.

Distinguished College Administrators

Twenty-five college administrators received the 2016 Distinguished College Administrator Award. This award is given to college vice presidents, deans or directors who demonstrate a strong level of support for Phi Theta Kappa during their tenure.

See the full list of winners.

Michael Bennett Lifetime Achievement Awards

Five college presidents and campus CEOs were honored with the Michael Bennett Lifetime Achievement Award. These awards are presented to college presidents/campus CEOs at two-year institutions and state community college system directors who are retiring and have consistently provided outstanding support to Phi Theta Kappa chapters and advisors during their careers.

This award is named in honor of the late Dr. Michael Bennett, longtime president of St. Petersburg College in Florida. See the winners.

Passport Winners Announced

Six Phi Theta Kappa members who attended NerdNation 2016 and participated in the first Passports Competition as a way to enhance their convention experience were randomly selected to receive $350 in scholarships.

All NerdNation attendees received a Passport in their registration bags upon their arrival in National Harbor, Maryland. The Passport contained a grid outlining the opportunities available at NerdNation, including the General Sessions, Educational Forums, Mini Sessions and more.

Attendees marked off places on the Passport that they visited and then submitted completed Passports to Phi Theta Kappa to be entered into a random drawing.

Stella Cobbs of the Beta Rho Gamma Chapter at East Coast Polytechnic Institute (or ECPI University) in South Carolina was selected to receive a $100 scholarship for completing the Passport. Five finalists were selected to receive $50 each:

  • Kaitlynn Willis, Alpha Nu Psi Chapter, Gillette College, Wyoming
  • Abigail Averil, Alpha Omicron Omicron Chapter, Mid-Michigan Community College, Michigan
  • Drew Schupp, Chi Delta Chapter, East Central College, Missouri
  • Desireé Rachwal, Alpha Delta Omega Chapter, Glen Oaks Community College, Michigan
  • Blake Jenkins, Alpha Xi Pi Chapter, Motlow State Community College, Tennessee

The Passport Competition was part of the first Convention Competitions, a series of competitions allowing NerdNation attendees to become more active and engaged during NerdNation and to receive extra recognition. Other competitions included a T-Shirt Design Competition, a Prepared Speech Competition and a Scholar Bowl Competition. Read more.

NerdNation 2016 was held April 7-9 in National Harbor, Maryland. See full convention coverage on The Reach, and view the full list of 2016 Hallmark Award winners.